Responding to COVID-19

  • Overview
  • Leaders
  • Workers
  • Specific supports

Overview

The rapidly evolving response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia is unprecedented and is having a significant impact on our community, including businesses in the ACT.

The ACT Government is committed to supporting our local businesses.

On these pages you will find information for Leaders (employers, managers) and Workers to support you working through the COVID-19 response. For leaders, this includes information on responding to COVID-19 as a workplace hazard, looking after yourself and your staff (whether working from home or still in their usual settings) and supports available for business.

For workers this includes information on what you can do to reduce the impact on your physical and mental health, including specific information on working from home and working in your usual settings, where work can still be safely carried out this way.

Healthier Work is also identifying and putting into place online supports for local businesses and workers, including particular resources for small to medium businesses and registered charities. This information will be added under Specific supports as available, so please check the page regularly for updates.

We encourage you to stay up to date by visiting the ACT Government COVID-19 website.

Leaders

Whether you’re the CEO of a large corporation, a small business owner, a sole trader or a team manager, your workplace is likely to be experiencing major disruptions and unprecedented challenges at this time. It’s important that you look after yourself as part of your role as a leader. If you have staff, there are also things you can do, big and small, that can greatly influence their lives at this time and their ability to bounce back in the recovery period.

Topics on this page

COVID-19 as a workplace hazard

It’s important to keep up to date about the current heath situation through the ACT Government COVID-19 website. This information will help inform your business’ risk assessment in responding to COVID-19.

You may have some workers who are at particularly high risk of becoming seriously ill if they are infected with COVID-19. These vulnerable workers may include: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 50 years and older with one or more chronic medical conditions; people 65 years and older with chronic medical conditions; people 70 years and older; and people with compromised immune systems. It’s important to give specific consideration to these workers.

Where possible, support employees to work safely from home. More information on how to do this is provided further below.

In situations where work from home is not feasible, you will have put in place measures to ensure essential workers can safely remain at work (e.g. personal hygiene, personal distancing and cleaning/infecting practices). More information on how to support staff who are working in the usual settings is provided further below.

More information on Work, Health and Safety and COVID-19 is available on the WorkSafe ACT Portal. See also Safe Work Australia COVID-19 Information of Workplaces, which provides industry specific advice.

Looking after yourself and your workers

As a leader, it is important that you also look after your physical and mental health. The advice to workers on this website is also relevant to you.

When considering how to promote and protect the mental health of your workers at this time, the Healthier Work Mentally Healthier Workplaces webpages will be a useful resource. Launched by Suzanne Orr – Minister for Employment and Workplace Safety – and WorkSafe ACT in February 2020, the Mentally Healthier Workplaces initiative supports businesses to actively contribute to positive mental health in the ACT. You can take a pledge to demonstrate your commitment to creating a mentally healthier workplace or just benefit from the available resources at this time.

With restrictions lifting, Healthier Work has released a COVID19 Worker Wellbeing Factsheet for workplaces on supporting worker wellbeing during pandemic recovery and transition back to the workplace.

Information on Mental Health and Wellbeing is also available on the ACT Government COVID-19 website.

Supporting work from home

For some businesses, flexible and family-friendly arrangements already include working from home and practices to support this are well established. For others, workplans and styles will need to be adjusted to accommodate this new way of working. Regardless, working from home for long periods of time brings challenges, as well as opportunities.

Guidance for employers on Working safely from home is provided on the ACT Government COVID-19 website. Use the WorkSafe ACT Working from Home WHS Checklist to assist employees in setting up their workstations. It is important that you also promote ways that employees can look after their physical and mental health at home (see the Workers tab for more information).

If you’re a small business, check out Beyond Blue’s Practical tips to help run your small business from home.

Supporting workers in their usual settings

If your business is still operating in its usual setting for at least essential workers, you will have put into place measures to protect the health and safety of your staff, such as ensuring that they practice good hygiene, wash their hands and observe social distancing, and that shared spaces are regularly cleaned and disinfected.

Staff may be feeling anxious about coming into their normal work setting or undertaking their normal duties. It is important to regularly check in with staff and support their wellbeing. If work hours have increased due to your staff providing frontline and/or essential services, it’s important to monitor and manage fatigue issues.

Economic supports for business

The Australian and ACT Governments have announced a range of economic support for businesses at this time. More information on this Economic support is available on the ACT Government COVID-19 website.

Workers

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live, the way we work and the way we relate to others. It’s natural to feel a range of emotions at this time.

Topics on this page

Looking after yourself

You’ve probably been hearing a lot about how you can Protect Yourself and your loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some tips for how you can reduce the impact on your physical and mental health. Information on Mental Health and Wellbeing is also available on the ACT Government COVID-19 website.

  • Keep a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet, staying physically active and getting quality sleep:
    • Eat Good nutrition is important for our overall health. Eat nutritious, well balanced meals and drink plenty of water. For great recipes on healthy eating, visit the ACT Nutrition Support Service
    • Move – Being physically active can go a long way to improving our overall health and wellbeing. For tips on staying active at home, visit the Heart Foundation website. Don’t forget to also activate your mind, for example, practice relaxation, meditation and mindfulness – perhaps even in the natural environment.
    • Sleep Good quality sleep is important for our overall health. If you are not sleeping well or long enough, try healthdirect’s 10 tips for healthy sleep.
  • Limit your media intake: schedule time each day to keep up to date with current news from trusted sources.
  • Limit your alcohol consumption: visit the Hello Sunday Morning website for online supports if you want to change your relationship with alcohol. You can also contact Directions ACT for support if alcohol or other drugs are becoming an issue for you.
  • Keep a routine and have some goals: routines sound dull, but they’re great for our mental health. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day; eat at regular times; shower and change your clothes; have regular virtual catch ups; and do your chores. This will help you to manage your days and adjust when life starts to go back to normal. Set goals for yourself and explore activities and hobbies you can enjoy. Staying curious and engaging with the natural world around us are great ways to improve our wellbeing.
  • Stay connected to friends, family and workmates in creative ways: use phone calls, WhatsApp, Messenger, Skype or Facetime.

  • Seek support if you find yourself in conflict with loved ones: everyone has the right to respectful, loving relationships and no one should live in fear. If you are experiencing abuse or violence it is not your fault. Support is available – for more information visit the ACT Community Services Domestic and Sexual Violence website.

Financial stresses

If you have concerns about your workplace entitlements and obligations if you’re affected by COVID-19, check out the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website. It also provides information on stand downs from work, working arrangements impacted by school closures and pay and sick leave entitlements.

The Australian and ACT Governments have announced a range of economic support for workers at this time. More information on this Support for workers is available on the ACT Government COVID-19 website.

Working from home

In terms of the practicalities of working from home, there are things you can do to increase your health and productivity:

  • Set up your workstation following the WorkSafe ACT Working from Home WHS Checklist, based on the tasks you’ll be performing.
  • Don’t forget to stretch. Check out Healthier Work’s Stretch Regularly at Work resource.
  • Let your employer know if you are having IT issues or require additional equipment to perform your duties.
  • Talk with your employer about your workplan and any adjustments that may be required.

In terms of protecting your physical and mental health, here are some specific tips considering working from home:

  • Be realistic about what can be achieved, especially if you are juggling caring responsibilities at this time.
  • If you can, set up your workspace in an area of the house that you don’t use for everyday living or zone off your workspace with a room divider.
  • Keep the hours you work in check and be mindful of work-life balance.
  • Stay connected to your supervisor and workmates in creative ways, for example, using Microsoft Teams, Webex, Skype, Zoom or regular phone calls.

Working in your usual setting

If the nature of your work means that it cannot be done at home, you may still be working in the usual setting of your work (with adjustments), whether that be an office, an aged care facility, a healthcare setting, daycare centre, supermarket or in a delivery van/truck.

You may feel worried about continuing to work in your usual setting when many around you are working from home. It’s important to manage your worries and seek help if they are getting too much. Check out the Australian Government Head to Health webpage – Psychological tips for coping with infectious diseases – for practical ways to help you and your loved ones cope with anxiety and worry about infectious diseases.

You may be finding that it’s harder to find healthy meal options whilst you’re at work, now that many restaurants and cafes have temporarily closed. Packing a healthy lunch is a great option. Check out Nutrition Australia’s Healthy Lunch Ideas for Busy Adults. If you’re a shift worker, check out Nutrition Australia’s Nutrition for Shift Workers Factsheet.

If you have any concerns regarding Work Health and Safety that you feel have not been adequately responded to by your employer, you can call WorkSafe ACT on
(02) 6207 3000 or visit the WorkSafe ACT Portal.

Specific supports

During COVID-19, Healthier Work is pleased to announce an expansion of free online supports under its Mentally Healthier Workplaces initiative. These include local workplace access to two online training programs, as follows:

  1. Mindarma (a mental fitness tool) this training is available to non-government ACT workplaces only, for up to 30 employees per workplaces
  2. Question, Persuade, Refer  (QPR) for Business (suicide prevention training) this training is available to any ACT workplace with no restrictions on how many employees can have access.

For more details on these supports, including how to register your workplace’s interest, visit our Mentally Healthier Workplaces webpages. This page also provides links to recordings of webinars Healthier Work has recently held on workplace health topics with information tailored to the working reality of COVID-19.

We encourage workplaces to take the Mentally Healthier Workplaces Pledge and incorporate supports such as these in a 12-month action plan that will see your workplace recognised for its commitment to workplace mental health.


Free webinars offered by other organisations 

Art of Work in partnership with the Australian Institute of Health & Safety (AIHS) held a webinar entitled ‘Emerging from Lockdown – Applying what we have learned’, on 12 May. This webinar was an exchange of ideas between panel members, outlining a new view for how work will be done. A recording of this webinar, and others from this series, is available here.

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The Black Dog Institute is running a free mental health and coronavirus interactive webinar series – Settling the Mind.

A recording of the Black Dog’s webinar ‘Working from home: Tips for your mental health during Coronavirus’ is available from the series website.

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The Victorian Achievement Program (similar to the ACT’s Healthier Work program) also ran a recent webinar on ‘Supporting mental health and wellbeing in the workplace during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic’. This webinar recording is available via YouTube.